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Governor: Fracking concerns fading

Hickenlooper doubts momentum exists now to get issue on this year’s ballot
Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, told attendees of a breakfast organized by the oil and gas industry that he believes it is unlikely that voters now see a need for a ballot initiative on limiting hydraulic fracturing. U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, center, attended the breakfast and KOA radio host Steffan Tubbs moderated the event.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday said he does not believe there is momentum to push a state ballot initiative that would crack down on the oil and gas industry.

The Democrat spoke along with Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner at a breakfast in Denver hosted by industry leaders and supporters, including Vital for Colorado.

“There will be proposals, but I don’t think there will be something that will be funded to any significant extent, and therefore I don’t expect something to get on the ballot,” Hickenlooper said.

The governor was instrumental last year in developing a plan to avoid proposed ballot initiatives that aimed at cracking down on the industry, including offering local governments the authority to ban hydraulic fracturing. The proposals were being funded by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder. Hickenlooper convened a task force to examine the issue, which made recommendations this year to the Legislature.

The task force advanced nine recommendations, including beefing up the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry in Colorado. In addition, the task force made recommendations about local and urban planning as it relates to the industry; local input on wells; and certain health, environment and nuisance issues.

But the panel could not come to consensus on the local authority issue, leaving open the possibility of a 2016 ballot effort, of which Hickenlooper, a former geologist, is skeptical.

“At this point there isn’t the same energy or sense of frustration, the intensity of frustration, that there was a year ago,” Hickenlooper said. “Many people would say we still aren’t where we need to be, but they would say we’re making progress.”

Activists are currently watching to see what happens with local fracking bans and moratoriums that are tied up in legal proceedings, including a ban approved by Longmont voters. If the ban is overturned, then proponents may seek a statewide ballot solution. If the ban is upheld, then efforts might simply continue on a local level.

“Governor Hickenlooper’s blowing hot air to justify his continued endorsement of the fracking fiasco that is making Coloradans sick, driving down property values and threatening our air and water,” said Sam Schabacker, spokesman for Food and Water Watch, one of several groups discussing local and statewide ballot initiatives. “Outrage continues to grow over the governor’s inaction to stop fracking and more parents, business owners and community members are speaking out than ever.”

pmarcus@durangoherald.com

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